yard makeover on apartment 34

If you followed this little ole’ blog nearly eight months ago, you may recall that I started yet another project at This Old Victorian. This time it was tackling a major yard makeover. Thankfully, the massive project’s (near!) completion came in the nick of time. Since shelter-in-place began, we’ve relied on our yard daily. I’m hoping to give you a detailed tour of the entire space and a recap of our whole design process very very soon. The transformation is just as dramatic as our interiors. If you’re feeling impatient – or need something to fill up your SIP hours – definitely check out the before tour of the yard on my IGTV.

Obviously our outdoor spaces are critical now more than ever. No matter if you have a postage-stamp-sized patio or an expansive backyard oasis, you want to make sure it’s living up to its full potential. Since I’m not at liberty fully reveal our yard design juuussst yet, I thought I’d at least offer some inspiration in the form of all my favorite pieces for outdoor spaces. From seating and long-lasting outdoor cushions, to accessories like fire pits and planters, outdoor pizza ovens and lawn games, now is the time to invest in getting your yard in tip top shape.

I have a feeling we’re in for a loooong summer friends. Let’s make the best of it, shall we?

What yard projects are you currently working on??


For more outdoor space inspiration, CLICK HERE.

landscape design and construction by Beth Mullins of Grows Green Landscape Design, photo by moi

foraging on apartment 34

As virtually the entire world spends 24/7 in our homes, it’s certainly forced many of us to reexamine our spaces – how we use them, how we maximize them, and how we beautify them. Myself included. Now more than ever before our spaces need to be our respite, sanctuary, and refuge from the stresses of the outside world.

I’ve always loved to have fresh flowers in the house, but with florist shops shuttered and even the flower markets closed, it’s nearly impossible to come by fresh blooms unless you’re lucky enough to have quite the flower garden. Sadly I do not. Enter foraging.

Foraging has long been florists’, stylists’, and interior designers’ secret weapon. In fact, one of my favorite florists Louesa Roebuck wrote an entire book about it called Foraged Flora. When you use something foraged – usually branches of one variety or another – you not only bring life into a space, but you also add an interesting geometric, architectural shape to any vignette. Foraged branches can work on both large or extremely small scales and be placed virtually anywhere. The dining room table, the mantel, the kitchen counter, bedside, or in a bathroom. There truly are no limits. I’ve included a variety of examples of gorgeously foraged branches as you continue to scroll.

foraging on apartment 34 foraging on apartment 34

While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to foraging, there are some general guidelines to abide by. Here are my top foraging tips:

    • First and foremost, do you not clip from private property (unless it is your own of course!). Public parks are also generally a no-no. Look for alleys, open lots, public lands and forested trails.
    • When you find a publicly available space from which to clip, do so gently. You don’t want it to be immediately obvious that you removed something and you certainly don’t want to harm the plant.
    • Do clip a little big larger than you think you’ll want. You’ll most likely trim down your clippings upon returning home so you want to make sure you start out with a bit extra.
    • There’s no right or wrong plant variety to clip, but some popular choices include flowering quince, magnolia, dogwood, and olive branches are perennial favorites.
    • Trim up the ends before you put your clippings in water & change water daily. You should get up to two weeks of life out of them this way.

foraging on apartment 34foraging on apartment 34foraging on apartment 34foraging on apartment 34

Now it certainly helps if you live near wooded areas to be a successful forager, but you can get creative. These days I’m making it a rule to always have my clippers with me and my eyes peeled for a good little moment – even on my once-every-two-weeks trip to the grocery store.

My friend and famed interior designer Athena Calderone has become kind of the foraging guru. She recently created a quick video all about foraging, which you can watch right here

What do you think of this trend? Will you be packing your clippers on your next walk?


images colin king | design constanze ladner photography renee kemps | design athena calderone photography nicole franzen | design nate berkus & jeremiah brent photography nicole franzen | design constanze ladner photography renee kemps | design jasmin johnson | zara home /  design athena calderone styling colin king photography mathew williams | design athena calderone 

If you don’t follow Apartment 34 on Instagram, than you might have missed the exciting announcement that official This Old Victorian – aka my five year renovation saga – is about to come its close. Domino Magazine announced its first ever Renovation Issue and I’m thrilled to announce that office tour of our house is included. If you want your first sneak peak into the our before & afters (and they’re rather dramatic), click here.

But I think once you try your hand at renovations, you catch the bug. And so I’m already designing my fictional future dream house in my hand. And I think I already found my dream kitchen.

This epic kitchen is another product of design savant Amber Interiors. She has figured out the magic mix of California casual, old world grandeur, and what I like to call elevated rustic style that combine to create warm, welcoming but also dramatic spaces.

Obviously, the architecture of this space lends itself to its awesome dramatic feel, not to mention all that stunning natural light. But that is probably one of my biggest leanings from our renovation – that a space’s bones are everything. If you happen upon some a home with some good architecture, jump on it! You can be confident that even the ugliest of toads can be transformed.

The use of various both refined and rustic materials offers really beautiful juxtaposition in this kitchen. Honed Calacatta marble counters and backsplash feel sleek and fancy. But then the reclaimed French limestone looks as if you could be in a farmhouse in Burgundy. The mix and match continues with smooth plasters walls abutting a white brick pizza oven. Brass hardware offsets the custom white oak cabinetry, but the cup drawer pulls reinforce the more country, rustic feel. Finally, a rustic beam holds residence above a sophisticated Lacance range. Yet it all works.

This space would feel fitting should it be in middle of wine country, in Europe or in downtown LA. In fact it resides in Malibu, CA but you certainly wouldn’t say it has a beachy feel.

I love how Amber switched the far counter’s top to a dark limestone to anchor the space and mirror the dark range across the room.

If I could get my hands on this space I might have thickened the countertops (I still love that fat look), selected more modern cabinetry hardware and swapped out the antique pendant lights for something more minimalist and refined. But that’s fun thing with renovating. Once you get to play with the details, you just want to play more and more and more and more.

Good thing I have my yard project to keep me busy at the moment, because I’d be rather tempted to start housing hunting again! Don’t tell my hubs.

design by amber interiors, photography by tess neustadt 

It’s been rather quiet on the blog of late, but that’s only because things have been nonstop IRL. You know, that whole big offline world. I’m thrilled to announce I’ve photographed the official before and after reveal of This Old Victorian with Domino! I couldn’t be more excited to finally give you the full, unedited tour of this five year renovation saga. But…..you’re going to have to wait until the end of the month for that.

But of course, I have not been resting on my laurels. Far from it. In fact over the past few months I’ve been tackling an entirely new project – renovating our yard! Back in August – how has time gone that quickly – I posted an impromptu tour of our existing yard on IGTV. Amazingly, more than 14,000 people watched and had very strong opinions on our plans! Well, today I wanted to finally catch you up on what’s actually going on.

Our house is blessed with a substantial yard. It’s basically the reason we bought the place. Outdoor space in the heart of San Francisco is incredibly rare. Having relocated from rainy Seattle, we always wanted to be able to enjoy the California indoor-outdoor lifestyle. But we inherited more of an urban jungle than an outdoor urban oasis. Sure, the mishmash of brick, succulents and random greenery was all lovely to look at, but it was not really usable, pre-schooler friendly, nor did it capture yard’s full potential (head to Instagram to see the before tour).

Thankfully, I found landscape architect Beth Mullins of Beth Grows Green who has worked with us for nearly a year to create the ultimate dream design. It will offer us gardens, greenery, a major entertaining area – even a mini Apartment 34 studio! We are going to be maximizing every square inch. The images in this post gives you a sense of our design direction (do you want to see the actual details?? Let me know!).

I have three main objectives for our makeover – optimize the available space, keep things low maintenance and ensure we have a climate appropriate garden. You won’t find any perfectly manicured lawn here. To that end, Beth’s yard design plays the elegance of our Italianate’s exterior against more modern architectural features like cantilevered benches, exposed concrete and minimalist planter beds.

I also need a yard that works hard. The weather in San Francisco, while mild, is not forgiving. From salty sea winds, beating sun, storms and climate change, everything has to stand the test of time. Thankfully, I’ve found Sunbrella – the ultimate outdoor fabric that gives me the style I’m looking for and the durability I need.

Even though we’re weeks away from finishing the hardscape, I can’t help but already start accessorizing in my mind. To continue the modern + timeless vibe, I’ve zeroed in on outdoor furniture from Room & Board with custom cushions by Sunbrella. I’m staying true to my go-to color palette of course. Think neutrals, neutrals and more neutrals. I cannot wait to be able to sit back on a warm afternoon on my Montego Chaise with a comfy Sunbrella cushion. I’m currently debating white on white or a contrasting black. I have some time to hem and haw about that.

I’m also always a sucker for an Adirondack chair, so I’m loving the modern Emmet Rocker. I’m currently envisioning tone on tone Sunbrella cushions to serve as the perfect perch for my evening glass of wine. A strong palette of black and white furnishings will contrast beautifully with our southern Italy-inspired garden of olive trees, rosemary hedges, figs, palms and lemon trees.

Obviously, this is not a small undertaking. We’re already more than two months into the process with at least another two or three to go. But I’m loving our direction and I’m so excited to take you along on this outdoor adventure!

Let me know what you’d like to know as we go along.


This post is in partnership with Sunbrella. Thanks for supporting posts that have kept Apartment 34’s doors open.

I’ve often turned to Zara Home for a hidden gem or two, but what I really want to do is move into their latest fall editorial.

You might get more design cred if you’ve sourced your rustic vase from the south of France or get bonus points when you pony up for authentic Pierre Jeanneret chair. But you can in fact appreciate the beauty of something, regardless of its origin.

And all the yummy saturated tones, lush textures and mature simplicity are just gorgeous.

Perhaps my next Victorian needs to be in Notting Hill, where this campaign was shot. Regardless, I’m going to let myself get lost in this serene vibe for the rest of the weekend.

photography by Rich Stapleton, styling by Colin King for Zara Home

If you’re looking for a coffee table that will stand the test of time, look no further than the plinth coffee table trend. These tables have literal lasting power given that they’re solid blocks of stone!

Idea to Steal: Plinth Coffee TablesIdea to Steal: Plinth Coffee Tables

Low profile yet sculptural, the plinth table can certainly stand (or should I say sit) on its own. I’m particularly fond of styling these bad boys to maximize the negative space. That really lets the beauty of the stone stand out.

Idea to Steal: Plinth Coffee Tables

But if you are more of a maximalist there is plenty of surface area to play with. The table’s low profile allows you to  have more fun with with objects of varying heights. You can creating stacks or books for favorite objet, or use a tall dramatic flower arrangement. The plinth table is kind of the perfect blank canvas.

Idea to Steal: Plinth Coffee Tables

I am particularly obsessed with the the plinth table by Menu in the Rose Calcutta marble. The stone for these tables is selected and assembled by hand to ensure the edges line up perfectly. The movement is just gorgeous. Additional adornment is hardly necessary.

Idea to Steal: Plinth Coffee Tables

While you can search around and find a few other plinth-like coffee table options from big box retailers, I do think the Menu design is the most classic, elegant and timeless. Thankfully, if you do a little digging you can find them at discounted prices (ahem, here!)

Idea to Steal: Plinth Coffee Tables

I am very tempted to take my own advice and add one of these beauties to This Old Victorian. Very very tempted.

How about you??

For our entire archive of theft worthy design ideas, CLICK HERE.

images 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 

At first glance, you might not think there’s anything amiss with the rooms you see here. And you’re not wrong. They are perfectly fine. But who wants to live with fine? Not me! These pics show how I originally missed an opportunity to make my bedroom and master bath next level. I consider this their 1.0 version.

Thankfully, there’s an easy way to upgrade a space without having to start from scratch. Lighting is one of the easiest ways to change a room and make a major statement, but there are a few tricks of the lighting trade – tricks I’ve had to learn the hard way over my nearly five years of renovating This Old Victorian.

To begin, I missed an opportunity to create eye-catching contrast. You could call both my bedroom pendant and bathroom sconces “classic,” but you could also probably use the b-word too. They’re boring! They just blend into the background. Yawn. Lighting is the jewelry of your room so you want it to be eye-catching.

I also made an error with my use of scale. That’s often one of the most difficult parts of picking lighting. You don’t want pieces that are too small. It’s a mistake you can’t ignore. It’s certainly the first thing I thought about every single time I stepped into both rooms.

To fix these issues I turned to one of my go-to lighting resources – YLighting – to do a major upgrade and create the wow moments these rooms really deserved. I have actually found the vast majority of fixtures for our house at YLighting. They have an amazing inventory of modern pieces and carry some of my favorite brands, both big time designers and smaller up and coming lines.

When selecting our new fixtures, I certainly solved my contrast and scale issues. The Roll & Hill sconces I picked for the master bath have a lovely elongated shape that compliments our house’s epic ceiling height. The Marset Ginger pendant I chose for the master bedroom has a longer drop and a much larger diameter, making it the statement piece the room really needed.

I also wanted to inject more interesting materials and finishes into these rooms. Pro tip: when you pick lighting for different rooms, the fixtures don’t need to be twins – in fact you don’t want them to be, but the lights should at least be cousins. Think somewhat related. My new sconces and pendant both feature a light oak wood which helps connect them, while the Ginger pendant has black accents that relate to lighting I have in other rooms. The sconces feature marble and brass as do fixtures I’ve used in the house’s other bathrooms. It feels cohesive without being matchy-matchy.

I’m so excited to finally have lighting that draws your eye in a good way. My biggest lesson here? Don’t play it too safe. Your lighting is your opportunity to really express your personality, have fun and play.

To save you from repeating my lighting faux pas, I put together a video summarizing all of my best lighting tips. Bonus – it includes major sneak peeks of my bedroom and bathroom makeovers!

I hope you find it helpful as you upgrade your spaces this fall. Now is THE perfect time because YLighting is having their fall sale right now! Click HERE to shop. I’ve also included some of my top picks below because I just can’t help myself. Someday I’ll have another project to do, right??

This post is a paid partnership with YLighting. Thanks for supporting collaborating that have kept apartment 34’s doors open.

photography by andrea creative, aubrie pick

When you close your eyes and imagine your dream home, what do you see? If you said a mix between Oliver Gustav and Vincent Van Duysen, where elevated simplicity meets luxurious texture and pitch perfect restraint, then we’re meant to be design BFFs. If said I found such serenity, would you believe me?

Apparently, I want to live in the world of Zara Home’s new A/W 2019 campaign – A Life of Simplicity – because everything here is harmonious, soothing and when you stop to think about it, really oh so simple.. Be gone over-crammed shelfies and overloads of color – or stuff. What if you lived only with what you needed, but everything you have has to be beautiful. Intentional. This is where I want to call home.

This gorgeousness is no surprise given that this campaign was created in Copenhagen by some of my online faves including stylist extraordinaire Colin King and designer Rosie Seabrook. I love how pared back spaces like these force you to focus on the details – the texture of the plaster walls, the curves of the vases atop the dining table, the golden glow of the amber-hued glassware on the kitchen shelf. You miss nothing because it’s all meant to be seen – be experienced.

Hello dream kitchen, how you doing? You’re really making me want to redo mine right now.

Of course it helps that Zara’s new collection of tabletop, textiles and kitchenware have been paired with old world design classics (hello Jeanneret, Poulsen and Fritz Hansen), all in a timeless and soothing neutral color palette within a next level Scandinavian apartment. But all to perfect effect. I am sucked into this world and want to know how I can make any part of it my own (I currently have my eye on this vase and this bowl).

While of course I know a zen-like bedroom won’t calm the nerves of an overtired parent living in an insane world, I can hope that a perfect lounge chair or minimalist mirror might help. Or maybe I’ll just continue to look at these pictures. and deep breathe. Until the end of time.

What say you? Does this inspire you to up your style?

For more elevated design inspiration, CLICK HERE.

photography by frederik vercruysse, styling by colin king for Zara Home

When you here the word Birkenstock, would you ever connect it to Parisian chic? I certainly wouldn’t. But the ugly shoe trend has taken the hippie staple and made it fashion and now Birkenstock  has also made it design! The brand has just opened a new showroom on the Rue Saint Honoré in the heart of Paris and it is stunning. Don’t think you can combine Birkenstocks and high design? Scroll. You’ll be as amazed as I am.

Birkenstock 1774 showroom in Paris on Apartment 34

Created to display Birkenstock 1774, the company’s collection of limited edition designer collaborations and special projects, the showroom is a perfect example of an idyllic Parisian apartment complete with parquet floors, paneled walls, stunning fireplaces and cascades of natural light.

Birkenstock 1774 showroom in Paris on Apartment 34

The creative consultancy Vinson & Co juxtaposed the apartment’s classic architecture with modern furnishings in that elevated European way that I just cannot get enough of. Pieces in each jaw-droppingly pretty room come from mid-century icons like Cassina and Pierre Jeanneret and modern day show stoppers from Faye TooGood and Vitra.

Birkenstock 1774 showroom in Paris on Apartment 34Birkenstock 1774 showroom in Paris on Apartment 34Birkenstock 1774 showroom in Paris on Apartment 34

The designer Birks just seem to casually rest among the perfectly composed rooms. They are cohesively filled with warm tones, worn leather, ceramics from well-known ceramicists including Simon Hasan and unique woven art created by embroiderer Geraldine Larkin using jute and felt – materials used in the making of Birks!

Birkenstock 1774 showroom in Paris on Apartment 34Birkenstock 1774 showroom in Paris on Apartment 34

I would gladly call this showroom home, whether it came with the shoes or not. For now ,I’m plotting a trip to Paris to see this space and maybe pick up a pair of the Rick Owns Birkenstock collaboration. They have enough edge that they block the memories of Birks worn with socks out of my mind. 

If anyone is still headed to Paris before summer’s end, please go visit Birkenstock 1774 and report back if it is in fact as fabulous as this looks!

For our archive of inspiring retail therapy, CLICK HERE.

photography by depasquale + maffini

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